Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Why I Went To Take The Flour Back

On Sunday 27th May our family travelled to Harpenden, Herts to join around 400 others at the protest at Rothamsted Research Centre, where an open air field trial of GM wheat is currently growing.

We listened to some inspiring speakers: farmers, activists, charity workers.

Gathuru Mburu who travelled from Kenya, representing the African Biodiversity Network
We met lots of people who care about a food supply uncontaminated by GM. Some of us ate scrummy food supplied by the lovely Veggies

We listened to discussions about how instead of reducing the amount of pesticides used on crops as is claimed by the GM supporters, the reverse is often true and in many cases the use of GM crops have actually increased the need for pesticides. Just as the arguments that GM technology will solve the world hunger problems are a way of attempting to cast a benign PR front over the profit driven motives of the industry.

These issues were highlighted several months ago when the Global Citizens Report On the State of GMOs was released:

Even regardless of the harmful impact on our environment, on food sovereignty (people's right to control and shape food policy, as opposed to companies and corporations) there is also huge concern about the impacts on future human and animal health from the consumption of these products.

The fact that this particular crop of GM wheat contains a synthesised chemical enzyme which 'has most similarity to that from cow (Bos taurus)', but is not actually from a cow does nothing to reassure me.

It doesn't make me feel any more confident when I read it contains a synthesised gene 'similar to that found in peppermint (Mentha x piperita)' because what concerns me is that biotechnology is attempting to move us ever closer to food composed of laboratory created chemicals which in Rothamsted Research's words 'are not found naturally' (application document) and ever further away from food produced naturally from the Earth and by organic, diverse and sustainable farming methods.

If they want to genuinely solve the world's food crisis they could do better by reading a few basic permaculture books and challenging the inequalities in our social structures which sees much of the world's people lacking access to adequate food and clean water, while the rest of the world are creating vast monocrop deserts, logging forests, wasting land and resources on animal agriculture, and gorging themselves on literally sickening crap (think McDonalds etc)... The production and distribution of food on this planet is rife with exploitation, murder, suppression and inequality which favours Western industrial nations and corporate powers. This is of little concern to those wanting to pull the strings, supported by the lies and unstated agendas of those such as the biotech industry and  organisations with highly dubious interests such as 'Sense About Science'. 

Gathuru Mburu talked at 'Take The Flour Back' about the move of GM into Africa as being like a 'second colonialism', a 'second enslavement' attempting to create dependency on Western Corporations rather than supporting the development of diverse small scale farming (as has been feeding African people for centuries) which would place African people in control of their own food production.

This is an enslavement where if we don't resist now and hold onto the ownership of one of our most basic necessities in life... that of food and the seeds by which it is grown, we will be forever at the mercy of corporations. This has nothing to do with progressive science.

As the environmental writer Graham Harvey writes, referring to the director of Rothamsted Research Maurice Maloney, he is 'in the business of privatising nature and bringing the world's food supply under the control of large corporations'.

Due to the huge police and security presence protecting the trial field there was no opportunity for us to breach the fences and reach the crop. Led by the French group of GM activists  Faucheurs Volontaires (Volunteer Reapers), we all linked arms and walked as far as we could until stopped by police lines. Here we sat and a statement was read out.

The GM wheat trials can be protected by fences, police, security and High Court injunctions, but what is protecting the diversity, integrity and safety of our food and environment, our farmers and growers, our children? As always, it is us, with all our diversity and integrity and our courage to not feel defeated when taking whatever steps we can towards environmental and social justice.

I tend to agree with Graham Harvey when he says that 'Rothamsted scientists seem content to gamble our food security on an unproven and potentially unstable technology... the current tide of indignation over the Take The Flour Back protest is in reality part of a cynical agribusiness campaign to get this unnecessary technology accepted in Britain' (from an article by Jonathan Matthews in The Ecologist, May 25th 2012).

And as with many things, confronting such giants as agribusiness with it's State protection can be tiring work and we need to make sure we take a well-earned break so we can be up and at 'em all the stronger the next time!

Finally, here's an account of the day from the Take The Flour Back Website:

European activists link up to draw the line against GM

More than 400 growers, bakers and families from across England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Belgium marched against the return of open air GM field testing today. Take the Flour Back linked arms with their European counterparts, notably France’s Volunteer Reapers and walked calmly towards the site, before being stopped by police lines.

Take the flour back
Kate Bell from Take the Flour Back stated that “In the past, kids, grannies, and everyone in between has decontaminated GM trial sites together. Here at the beginning of a new resistance to this obsolete technology, we see GM hidden behind a fortress. We wanted to do the responsible thing and remove the threat of GM contamination, sadly it wasn’t possible to do that effectively today. However, we stand arm in arm with farmers and growers from around the world, who are prepared to risk their freedom to stop the imposition of GM crops.”
People enjoyed a GM free picnic whilst listening to a range of speakers opposing the trial, including Graciela Romero, International Programmes Director of UK development charity War on Want. Lawrence Woodward, previously Director of Elm Farm Organic Research Centre, former head of standards at the Soil Association, and now involved in Citizens concerned about GM. Plus several British farmers including Peter Lundgren, a conventional wheat farmer from Lincolnshire.

Gathuru Mburu, co-ordinator of the African Biodiversity Network, spoke on the global fight for control of our food supply.

Gathuru Mburu
Mburu explained that:
“Experimenting with staple crops is a serious threat to food security. Our resilience comes from diversity, not the monocultures of GM. Beneath the rhetoric that GM is the key to feeding a hungry world, there is a very different story – a story of control and profit. The fact is that we need a diversity of genetic traits in food crops in order to survive worsening climates. Above all, people need to have control over their seeds”
This statement is released amongst growing calls for the scientists to demonstrate sensitivity to public concern by harvesting the crop before pollination, removing any risk of contamination with non-GM plants.


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